Last Wednesday, the thin blue line snapped and, quickly, formed whole once again.
A fully-armed gunman with a sight advantage took out seven Florence law enforcement officers who were serving a warrant and backing up each other when the firing started. It took a military style vehicle to retrieve the bodies. The governor tweeted thoughts and prayers; the president tweeted the same. Members of the state legislature observed a moment of silence. Richland County officers immediately took off to become Florence’s back-up. The gunman was taken into custody.
It was the largest casualty count - one dead, six wounded - since Dallas. It was a tragedy other communities have endured. My second time working at the Greenwood paper, on my first day, we were in the morning staff meeting when we got word of the Bixby murders in Abbeville. Laurens County lost Deputy Roger Rice Jr., and honors his memory with a motorcycle ride and blood drive each year.
On a personal note, the mother of my children and I lived and worked in Florence eight years. Our first-born was delivered at McLeod, we have people we graduated with at Newberry College who live there still. I recognize several names from the outstanding, first-day article about the homicide published by the Charleston Post & Courier on-line.
The shooting started about 4 p.m., and the suspect was put down about 6 p.m. People were kept from their residences until about 9 p.m. The matter remains under investigation.
It was a warrant serving mission for Florence law enforcement. I have been in mass warrant-serving missions with law enforcement before, and I always wondered why they were so nervous having a civilian ride along. Now, of course, I know.
You have no idea what you’re going to encounter.
A thousand and one of these can go off without a hitch. That one - that dangerous, deadly one - changes the lives of families forever. In the Bixbys’ case, they’d just had enough of the government sniffing around their property. In Deputy Rice’s case, he was trying to effect a domestic-related homicide arrest. York County detective Mike Doty was gunned down this year while he and three others responded to a domestic violence complaint. Just a side observance, South Carolina is the 6th most violent domestic violence state in the nation (based on the ratio of men who kill women) and we at one time ranked No. 1.
In the October 3 Florence police officer’s homicide, the P&C article says this of the responding county and city officers, “They were confronted by a person with immense firepower and determination,” attributing the information to Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone.
The person who was shot to death (I despise that word “victim”) was 30-year police veteran Terrence Carraway, age 52, a resident of Darlington. It was the first time in 30 years that a Florence police office died in the line of duty.
The Florence Police Chief, Allen Heidler, said this, “I want to thank all of my brothers and sisters in blue from around this country who are already reaching out. We will take care of our family because this is my family. These officers are my family.”
Chief Heidler, the entire South Carolina family mourns with you, and stands ready to help you.
(Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. In a 40 plus-year career, he has worked at newspapers in Bishopville, Camden, Greenwood, Florence, Newberry, Manning and Clinton. Reach him at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org)